Preparing and Creating Chelmsford’s 2020 VE Day Tank Display


6 May 2020

By Roger Brice

Chelmsford City Council’s Parks & Green Spaces Manager, Paul Van Damme has been in touch to tell us more about The Multi-Story Roundabout – VE Day 75 display.

The tank display is part of the normal bedding displays and consists of two tanks made out of willow, a British Sherman tank and a German “Panzer” tank placed on the edge of the displays.

The display has been designed and made by local willow weaving artist, Deb Hart, who undertake commissions creating living outdoor rooms, garden structures, fences and sculptural work.

She also runs workshops gives talks on the history, traditions and uses of willow as well as on other horticultural subjects. The frame and metal works were designed and produced by metal worker Graham Mayes (from Underwood’s Engineering).  The tanks have taken 26 bundles of traditional willow (Salix triandra ‘Black Maul’) for the main weave. Each bundle is 7ft long and weighs 17 kg.  The display is set against the current spring bedding display of blue pansies, tulips and polyanthas.

Commemorative VE signs will also be placed in the beds set on a willow woven plinth. The project is managed by Jo Sylvester who commissioned the artist and metal worker in late 2019.

Chelmsford City Council has sponsored two other floral projects to celebrate VE Day 75, one of which is a Sundial flower bed in Hylands Park. The Hylands Estate was used extensively by the military during World War 2 and at various times was used as the site for a German Prisoner of War camp as well as a wireless command post for the 6th Anti-Aircraft Division. From March 1944 until October 1945, the newly formed SAS (Special Air Service) used Hylands House as their Headquarters with the officers being billeted in the house and the rest of the regiment using the Nissan Huts that were dotted around the park.

The unit worked and partied hard and there is a story that during one particular riotous evening the commander of the SAS (Paddy Mayne) drove a jeep up the grand staircase for a bet.  It is said that the owner of Hylands House, Mrs Hanbury, merely asked them to dismantle and remove the jeep in the morning when they had clearer heads!